Read about the dangers of Waste Anesthetic Gas (WAG)

Chronic, low-level exposure of health care professionals to waste anesthetic gases has been linked to increased incidences of neurologic and reproductive dysfunction, hepatic and renal toxicity, and neoplasia.

Increased risk of addiction in certain occupational settings may be related to exposures in the workplace that sensitize the reward pathways in the brain and promote substance use.

All halogenated agents are classified as potent central nervous system depressants.

Atmospheric Waste Isoflurane Concentrations Using Conventional Equipment and Rat Anesthesia Protocols 
Smith, Jennifer C. Bolon, Brad
Volume 41, Number 2, March 2002 , pp. 10-17(8)  Journal American Association for Laboratory Animal Science  PMID: 11958597

From the 84th Western Veterinary Conference
Waste Anesthetic Gases: The Invisible Treat (General Session)
Heidi Reuss-Lamky, LVT, VTS 

Symptoms associated with short-term exposure usually occur immediately or shortly after the contact and can include fatigue, headaches, drowsiness, nausea, depression, and irritability. Other short-term effects reported included depression, lethargy, and ataxia. Long-term effects reported myoneuropathies, muscle weakness, neuron destruction, and learning disabilities/cognitive disorders. 

Long-term or chronic implications become evident days, weeks, or even years after the exposure. Examples of conditions seen as a result of long-term exposure include reproductive disorders, liver and kidney damage, neoplasia, hematopoietic changes, pruritus, and chronic nervous system dysfunction

Reproductive Effects- In a survey undertaken by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, it was discovered that the risk of spontaneous abortions was 1.3-2 times the general population among female physician anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists. 

Other studies demonstrated that working hospital anesthetists had spontaneous abortion rates that were 18.2%, versus 14.7% in a control group, and 12% of working anesthetists were infertile, versus 6% of a control group. Another study confirmed that 16% of the children of practicing nurse anesthetists developed birth defects, versus a 6% incidence in a control group. However, other studies demonstrated a borderline statistical correlation between WAGs and birth defects. Studies are difficult to perform as human hospitals used various agents, control measures were inconsistent, and the amount of exposure to WAGs varied; nitrous oxide may have been partially responsible for some of the reproductive hazards.  

Liver and Kidney Effects- Many halogenated organic compounds can cause depression of hepatic function and hepatocellular damage. 

Other studies have demonstrated that exposure to high levels of WAGs effect motor skill performance and short-term memory. 

Additional resources...

As early as 1967 there were reports from the Soviet Union, Denmark, and the United States (Vaisman 1967Askrog and Petersen 1970Cohen, Bellville, and Brown 1971) that exposure to anesthetic agents including halothane may cause adverse pregnancy outcomes in health-care personnel. 

Several animal studies in rats, mice and hamsters showed embryolethal and teratogenic effects and supported the findings in humans (Basford and Fink 1968Wharton et al. 1979), although often at quite high concentrations (3000-6000 ppm). 

One (Popova et al. 1979) reported fetal resorption in rats at 9 parts per million

Assessment of occupational exposure to isoflurane administered in an anesthetic chamber within a horizontal laminar flow clean bench

Cooper D, Errede D, Streifel A.  

Contemporary Topics in Laboratory Animal Science 

November, 1998  37: (4)  64-67


Occupational exposure to isoflurane during anaesthesia induction with standard and scavenging double masks in dogs, pigs and ponies 

H Säre, T D Ambrisko and Y Moens

Lab Animal 

July, 2011  45: (3)  191-5


Isoflurane leakage from non-rebreathing rodent anaesthesia circuits: comparison of emissions from conventional and modified ports  

C Smith and B Bolon

Lab Animal 

April, 2006  40: (2)  200-9

Janet Wolforth,
Feb 15, 2016, 10:16 AM